by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
Obesity is on the rise.
The term obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or over. Being obese will drag the human body, mind and spirit down into an abyss of health issues ranging from daily aches and pains to stroke, disease and death.
A 33-year-long study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that about 2.1 billion people – 30% of the planet – are overweight or obese.
Appropriately named as the Global Burden of Disease Study, it concluded that 67% of men and 57% of women are either overweight or obese in the UK alone. The stats on obese and overweight children clock in at roughly 27%.
Even many doctors, nurses and medical staff are obese! 700,000 UK medical staff were told to “lose weight for patients’ sake.”
If nurses and doctors are obese themselves, is there any hope?..
The general health horrors of obesity
There are health dangers associated with being overweight and obese. Maybe you have read or heard about them.
They’re packaged into categories like heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, cancer, skin infections, sleep apnea and infertility, to name a few of the major ones. Fatty liver disease (non alcoholic), osteoarthritis and psychological/social problems fill another bucket of woes related to being obese.
What about the real life stuff, deep inside those health horrors of obesity? If you are obese or have a client who is literally weighed down with this condition, maybe it’s time to consider what it really means, in plain language.
1. Activities of daily living might become a burden to your body
Activities of daily living (ADLs) are defined as the things we normally do – such as feeding ourselves, bathing, dressing, grooming, work, homemaking, and leisure. They are part of our self-care tasks and fundamental to functioning in the world.
ADLs can also branch out into using the stairs, playing with the kids, walking to the bus stop, shopping, housework, getting dressed, gardening, and just plain moving around in the world.
When you are obese, these daily ‘normal’ activities can be a burden on your body. You are more susceptible to falls, injury and disability.
“Being heavy changes your physical experience of the world,” says researcher Krista Scott-Dixon. It is just harder to move when you have excess weight on your body.
She explains how difficult it can to comprehend the dangerous cycle of inertia that heavy people inhabit if you’ve never had that physical discomfort.
2. You might leak from both ends
A heavy belly and a big body will push foods back up. It’s called gastroesophageal reflux. It’s also known as GERD or heartburn.
This is actually quite common in obese people. Food and stomach acid can wash back up into the oesophagus, causing a burning sensation. That’s leakage going in.
A heavy belly pressing against the bladder presents another concern at the other end involving urination. It’s called urinary incontinence and obese women can have several of these episodes a week. Besides pushing urine out without your consent, it may also make someone more vulnerable to other lower urinary tract symptoms.
3. You’re setting yourself up to possibly die younger
Obesity is killing people early and often.
Coronary artery disease, diabetes and cancer are three of the bigger health risks associated with being obese. Excess weight will invariably erode on the very life supporting systems we depend on daily to function in the world.
These large scale complications can impact one’s future, decreasing the quality and length of life.
In closing (and saving one’s life)
The need to lose weight for an obese person is not for cosmetic reasons. In plain language, it is to save one’s life. The frightening reality of being obese is that every day can be a struggle.
It may not seem like an easy road ahead. Working full-time, family, pressures of time management and general stress can all seem to get in the way of succeeding in a weight loss plan.
Besides physical health problems complicating life, there’s the erosion of self-confidence, self-esteem, willpower and determination. Emotional and mental stress can be another ‘weight’ to bear.
The really good news is that you can do this – on your own or with a weight loss expert. It really is worth turning your ship around to literally save your life.
It has been suggested in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity that if individuals fully internalise weight loss-related behavioural goals, and feel not just competent but also autonomous about reaching them, their efforts are more likely to result in long-lasting behaviour change.
The hardest part may be starting. The best way is to start slow and continue at that pace. Making new healthy lifestyle changes takes time.
Think about the real life stuff in your life and what really matters. This is well worth a look to turn a really good life around for the better.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below if you have ever struggled with more weight than you like. And if you know someone who could really use a boost, please share this with them!
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.